12 min

Notes from 2010 UT Media Forum

(My April 2010 posting at ToledoTalk.com)

Mar 30, 2010 Toledo Talk posting announcing the event: UT forum to analyze citizen and professional journalism #todo fix this

  • What: 11th Annual First Amendment Freedom Forum
  • When: Thursday, April 1, at 7 p.m.
  • Where: The University of Toledo’s Law Center Auditorium
  • Why: Discussion topic: "A Nation of Watchdogs: Citizen Journalists and Traditional Journalists"

Before the Forum Began

Apr 19, 2010 - WSPD - Brian Wilson interviewed Toledo Free Press editor-in-chief Michael Miller. Miller said the Toledo Blade was invited to attend, but the Blade did not respond. That's why the event was advertised without someone from the Toledo Blade attending. But when the Blade saw the advertised event, Miller said the Blade wanted on the forum.

Toledo Blade managing editor Dave Murry participated. His twitter feed: http://twitter.com/blademanaginged

At the start of the April 1, 2010 forum, Maggie Thurber announced that she would not participate, and she left the building. She said something about having clients in Columbus and a "conflict of interest" because of her clients and, apparently, the presence of Murray (the Blade) at the UT forum. Nebulous, but plausible.

But Murray did not believe what Maggie said. Murray tweeted at the forum from his cell phone:

1. - I'm @ UT first amendment forum to talk about watchdog v. citizen journalism. Citizen journalism are all huddled together.

2. - Maggie Thurber looks espcially uncomfortable. Maybe the heat or maybe being on a panel w The Blade.

3. - Maggie left the forum saying she had a client that didn't wamt her to speak at the forum. Excuse didn't sound legit to me.

4. - UT forum was a great exchange of ideas about journalism, new and old alike. Maggie should have had the guts to stay.

It's funny how a newspaper managing editor failed to verify Maggie's story and instead jumps to conclusions and makes snarky comments that are normally associated with bloggers. If a blogger had done something similar, people like Murray would raise a fuss about the credibility of bloggers.

But I do enjoy the fact that Murray is tweeting. It's interesting reading.

Raw Notes

(Bullet-pointing my notebook scribbles)

Forum began around 7:15 p.m.

Around 17 people in attendance. Disappointingly small crowd.

Moderator for the forum is person from UT school newspaper: Independent Collegian. I didn't catch his name, but I assume it was Joe Griffith as advertised above.

Lisa started Glass City Jungle blog in 2006.

First question to Miller about growing pains with the Toledo Free Press. Miller said over the years, the TFP has reached out to bloggers and others in the community to contribute to the paper.

Lisa discussed the unfortunate desire for content producers to be first with a story. She said the biggest problem for bloggers who make a mistake is when they cover up their mistake by simply deleting the post instead of fessing up.

Murray has been a journalist for 35 years. He had been a managing editor at the Blade for three months. He began tweeting two weeks before the forum.

Murray said, "What we write matters."

Murray answered a question with a tangent explanation about the Blade's distribution and reach stats. I don't remember the question Murray attempted to answer, but even Murray admitted he may not have answered the question.

Murray said he's glad the TFP and the GCJ are around. He jokingly admits that some others at the Blade probably wishes they didn't exist. Murray mentioned advertising dollars. But Murray said more voices are good.

Lisa discussed credibility.

Murray's advice to journalists: "Don't be afraid of the digital platform. It's our future."

Murray said the Blade still has "story tellers."

Murray said 26 percent of Americans get news from mobile devices, and Google predicts this number will be 80 percent in three years.

Murray used the My Mother explanation. Murray said his Mom started with a Verizon flip-phone, then switched to a Blackberry, and then I think Murray said his Mom now uses an iphone. The point is, a growing number of information consumers of all ages are acquiring smart phones with sophisticated operating systems and Web browsers.

Lisa said 20 percent of her readers read GCJ on their mobile devices. Lisa installed a Wordpress plug-in to provide a version of her blog that can be read on cell phones.

Murray said the Blade is "forward thinking." He admits that the Blade loses money. Murray looked at Miller and said he would be shocked if the TFP is making money. We didn't get the financial stats from Miller, but I'm guessing the TFP is not losing the same relative amount of money as the Blade loses yearly.

Murray said cable TV is the only thing making money. That's probably true. According to a letter from Allan Block several years ago, it seems the Blade is propped up by other entities under the Block Communications umbrella, such as Buckeye Express Internet service and Buckeye Cable. And Murray said the Block family had the foresight 30 years ago to get into cable TV.

Murray is proud of the Blade. Nothing wrong with liking where you work.

Lisa said local TV news stations are using Facebook well when it comes to discussing their stories.

Lisa said she's not a journalist.

Miller said Lisa is a lowercase 'j' for "journalist."

Murray wanted to know if Thomas Paine could be considered the first blogger. Paine wrote "Common Sense" and other pamphlets. And Paine wrote anonymously.

Murray said, "I'm not afraid of bloggers." I don't remember the context of that remark. I didn't realize bloggers should be feared.

Back to the subject of credibility, Lisa said we're too gullible. We need to use our common sense to determine which blogs or stories are legit. I would say that same filtering process need to be applied to stories from professional journalists.

Lisa discussed blogging ethics.

Murray said he hopes readers are discerning.

Murray said, "We take tips from the Internet." Apparently, the Blade especially uses or monitors Facebook. Something about digging into stories related to crime. I guess this is related to what people post on Facebook. Personal experiences.

Lisa said she spends several hours transcribing Toledo City Council meetings. She said other media outlets don't have the resources to devote that much time to this process, so we only get short news stories about the meetings.

Miller said we need to embrace bloggers and others.

Murray said the Blade needs to stick with traditional journalists. Murray said the Blade would not reach out to other bloggers and bring them onto the Blade platform, and he admits this could be a mistake to do this. Murray said the Blade is reaching out to UT and BGSU students for information for the Blade's Peach section because of the TFP's new Star paper.

Murray said watchdog journalism is key for the Blade.

Lisa said traditional media has the resources to do investigative journalism.

Murray rambled on about the Blade's watchdog journalism related to the Tom Noe story and Maggie Thurber's involvement. Murray said he hopes that's not the reason why Maggie left the forum before it started.

Apr 2, 2010 comment by a Toledo Talk user:

I was also there, and I thought Murray was rather tacky and unprofessional - so he represented the Blade well. Money quote - He tried to say that the Blade isn't friends with any politicians... LOL Maggie does have a consulting firm, so I don't see why the conflict of interest would be that unbelievable. Murray thinks too highly of himself and the Blade. It's losing big money, Murray even acknlowledged that last night. And here's something to look for - unedited commenting on the Blade's stories - Murray is supposedly trying to get that through.

Back to my notes.

Miller discussed his dislike for anonymous Web postings.

Murray asked Lisa about how she handles anonymous commenters. Lisa said she now moderates the first comment by new users.

Murray mentioned the international aspects of citizen journalism, especially in Iran where anonymous posting is important.

Murray said Blade readers can police each other as it relates to commenting on Blade stories. Murray endorses the idea of letting everyone post without moderation and rely on other users to flag problem commenters.

Miller said the TFP moderates every comment on every story. He said he and/or the TFP staff is usually quick about approving comments.

All discussed issues with commenters. And it's true that allowing comments has been a sticky issue with news orgs. The media industry is trying to find a way to generate civil discussions 100 percent of the time, and that may not be a realistic goal, especially on political stories. So some newspaper Web sites prohibit commenting, but that means users may discuss the story on another Web site, and that's traffic and interaction the newspaper Web site loses out on. But the newspaper Web sites don't want vitriolic comments on their for-profit business Web site either.

Murray said he's excited about video. He tried to sell the young people in the audience on the idea that it's a great time to be a journalist, and I agree if you like technology and new forms of content generation and distribution, which young people should support, since it has been so much a part of their lives.

Murray said journalists today have to be multimedia journalists. A social media journalist. Murray said newspaper reporters should also know how to shoot and edit video and other technologies.

A UT journalist professor in the audience stood up and said newspapers have two choices: change or die. She said UT is revamping its journalism school.

Murray discussed "convergence." Murray said he liked to see the newsroom or news stories on TV. Murray said Block Communications has Buckeye Cable and the BCSN channel.

Murray talked about how reporters should use Flip video cameras.

Miller said he used the Flip video camera last fall for a story about the casino in Lawrenceburg, IN ahead of Ohio's statewide casino issue vote. Toledo's proposed casino is supposed to be modeled after the one in Lawrenceburg. Miller said he interviewed several people with his Flip video camera, and when he wrote the story, he linked to the videos on the Web site.

Miller mentioned WGTE's Knowledge Stream for video and audio of local meetings.

Murray said the online versions of news stories should also include links to official documents in PDF format.

Question: What's the relationship between public officials and citizen journalism?

Miller said Lisa is "ground zero" for local officials. I didn't quite understand the meaning of Miller's response. I think Miller said local officials trust Lisa, and the officials go to Lisa to get their message out or something like that. It seemed like too cozy of a relationship to me. But Lisa said she criticizes local officials when she feels it's warranted, and sometimes the local officials on the receiving end of this criticism will ask Lisa about it.

Murray said the Blade is not friends with any politicians. He said politicians try hard to lobby the Blade for "favorable stories." Now that I think about, I should have asked Murray, how come this lobbying is not a story? Why not print a weekly lobbying list of local politicians who are trying to get favorable stories from the Blade and print what it is the politicians are lobbying for? And how often does the Blade comply with the lobbying requests by printing favorable stories?

Murray said he and John Robinson Block talk everyday about news stories and not about editorials.

Murray said news writing is more a craft and not art. He said creative writing or writing fiction is art. Murray said two or three people at the Blade are really good writers.

Murray said he tells interns at the Blade, "You're a storyteller," and he tells the interns that they have to know the audience.

The moderator asked about advocacy journalism.

Murray said he's a big supporter of advocacy journalism. He said journalists are not objective. He said they're subjective. Murray mentioned Toledo's high poverty rate and the need for advocacy journalism to focus on local poverty. But Murray said the Blade lacks the resources to do this.

I wonder how the Blade had the resources to write 150 to 200 stories from January 2007 to the summer of 2009, advocating for the rescue of the Seneca County courthouse from demolition.

The forum ended at 8:44 p.m. My notes could have been better, but a lot was said. I think someone videotaped the forum. That would be a better source if that video was posted. It was interesting, and I'm glad Murray attended.

#media - #toledo - #socialmedia - #blog_jr

By JR - 2176 words
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